|Tepuq Bulan harvesting tapioca using a hoe|
|Fried tapioca cake|
|Tepuq Bulan harvesting tapioca using a hoe|
|Fried tapioca cake|
Even after a year, I still vividly remember my fond time spent in Bario under Batch 2 of Project WHEE!. Life in the hustle and bustle of Kuala Lumpur certainly makes me wish for a more serene environment sometimes. In addition to that, the oppressive heat of the inter-monsoon season causes me to long for a return to the cool breeze of Bario.
4th July, 2014
It is hard to believe that this is the penultimate night of my stay in Bario; time has passed so quickly despite my best attempts to savour every day, akin to how one can never hold water in her hands no matter how hard she tries, as the water will simply flow through the crevices between her fingers.
The last day of working at the sawah (Malay for paddy field) was a joy. I feel a sense of freedom when I am able to go into the knee deep mud without being worried about getting dirty. As Tepuq Bulan and I had almost finished clearing the remains of the old harvest the day before, it was finally time to spread the seedlings to grow. After we had finished our work, Tepuq Bulan surprised me by bringing out a Tupperware containing a whole cut pineapple. I was delighted of course, as Bario pineapples are perhaps the best in the region, but at the same time I was terrified of disappointing her if I did not finish it as it would be unwise to refuse or fail to finish pineapples when offered in Bario. If it wasn’t for Rhonwyn who was there at the nick of time and helped me with it, I would have ended up in a pineapple-induced coma.
Today was also the last day that I taught at the local school – SMK Bario. Staying true to my “no play play” policy, I gave my class a quiz on the chapters in Form 2 science that I had been tutoring them to master, chapters that they were going to be tested on next week. Although I was far from a competent teacher, I was determined not to let their allocated time with me be in vain. To my pleasant surprise, they were very diligent in doing the test. However, my heart nearly skipped a beat after I had ccalculated the results, for the exception of a few kids, nobody scored more than half marks on what was supposed to be a very easy quiz. I certainly hoped that I did not show this, and I once again got my chalk to review some important concepts that will help them in their exam. I figured most of them didn’t bother studying for the quiz, but I hope that their attitudes towards the real exam will be different.
After dinner at 9 pm, Sathesh, Thiiban and I went to Tepuq Bulan’s house to learn more Kelabit. As we had made arrangements for Tepuq Ribed to be there as well, it was quite a party with the two ladies laughing uncontrollably about many things in Kelabit, especially about the word ngawah (Kelabit for marry), with which Thiiban made many sentences with it to his expense.
|My last day at the sawah with Tepuq Bulan. Bario Asal is visible in the background on the left. Picture by Rhonwyn.|
|After a session in SK|
”You may not think that you have been an inspiration to them, but just seeing Project WHEE! around in school is already an inspiration for the students. They don’t see many outsiders in school most of the time, and you don’t know this, but they are very excited to see us whenever we come to Bario. Just because you don’t feel like an inspiration does not mean you don’t leave an impact on them. You may not have inspired them to learn English, but you have inspired them on something else.”
”We never know which lives we influence, or when, or why.” – Stephen King, 11/22/63
days into coming back home and returning back to my everyday routine, I have
these children at the back of my mind as a reminder that giving up really isn’t
an option. Sometimes, all I really need is to embrace the journey and celebrate
whatever it is the day presents to you; whether it is welcoming a complete
stranger to teach you an academic lesson or taking a hike to have a bath after
a long day at school.
Either way, life gives you a million
parachutes, board it or end up watching it go by.
In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find
the fun, and – SNAP – the job’s a game!
Then, Ai Jin realised the standard of the class after she saw their
recent examination results at the back of the classroom. The passing rate in the
class was very low. Maybe, the students there have the enthusiasm to study, but do not have the adequate resources to strive forward. The situation in the West is
absolutely opposite; many do not have the enthusiasm to study, but are flooded
with private tuitions, extra classes and workbooks. I am really worried about the
English standard there. Over here at where I live, I struggled to get into an international school and
getting a decent score in IELTS because of my lack of proficiency in English.
However, these children in Bario cannot even score high in our low English
standard examinations, what more competing with the world.
Christina and her one year old daughter, Cherisha. I truly miss them a lot despite meeting them for only 3 days.
|I should have found this book earlier though…|
|we can be pretty clueless learners at times|
Maybe it was a lot easier for my batch to go into this already being very close to each other but from this, I’ve learnt that people are inherently good. Don’t think that you have to do anything alone, whether it’s washing dishes or having emotional problems. You’d be surprised how willing people are to help. Be real with each other. There were plenty of times when I had really deep conversations that I just know I wouldn’t have had in any other circumstances. It wasn’t just a matter of inside jokes. These small acts of trust and care actually made our shared experiences all the richer.
|Me, Tepu’ Uloh and Jess in Bario Airport|
That didn’t matter though. It didn’t matter that we sometimes forgot the words we learnt. It didn’t matter that we weren’t picking up all that many words a day. In the end, we wanted to learn. We wanted to share. We would remind each other and we would talk. That’s what I believe was the most important thing. That willingness to learn.
|Tepu Sinah Rang, Tepu Uloh and me|
|Me, Tepu Uloh and Jess on Cultural Night|
|Forgive our city selfies and Starbucks cups, we’re new here!|
|Uncertainty seems pretty insignificant when you’ve got mountains backing you up|
Honestly, it was brilliant living in that time paradox where I was comfortable not knowing how things would be in the next minute. I started out constantly checking how high up the sun was but the the light in Bario lies. Time hardly mattered anymore. The mountains may have been crumbling but it was taking such a long time to us. Sometimes, we would sit quietly on Tepu Sina Rang’s veranda, eating kuachi and drinking tea. I just think that to those mountains that surrounded us, our days must seem like milliseconds. The same how, upon returning, we’ve changed a thousand times over but to KL and all the people in it, it was just another two weeks.